Helsinki is a great place for kayaking. We will show you the best of the archipelago just 30 minutes from the city center. Join us now!

A Capsized Kayak and Rescues

Most kayakers have capsized at some point in their kayaking career, whether it be on purpose during a practice or unintentionally while out paddling. An important skill for every kayaker is to learn how to return to an upright position in an emptied kayak. There are several ways to do this. Before moving on to those, let me explain how to plan a paddling route if you do not know how to recover from a capsize.

For those who do not know how to perform any kind of rescues the safest routes to choose are the ones with land close by. Climbing back into a kayak (especially if there are waves) is often a challenging task for beginners. Therefore paddling close to the shore allows the paddler to swim to shore, empty the kayak and relaunch, in case he/ she capsizes. Paddling close to the shore is especially important in the beginning and in the end of the kayaking season when the water temperature is low.

An assisted rescue

When you want to paddle further away from the shores, rescues are essential. Imagine that you are paddling and there is 5 km of open water between two islands, you are halfway when your friend capsizes. Here swimming to the closest shore is not a very good solution, learning how to do assisted deep-sea rescues is in this case much more helpful. Very often when we go out paddling, we go out paddling together with a friend or with friends. When you learn the assisted rescue, you are able to empty your friend’s kayak and help your friend back into the kayak. Assisted rescues are part of our Beginners sea kayak course. With further training it is possible to do an assisted rescue in less than a minute.

Pelastautumisharjoitus

Sometimes you may choose to go kayaking on your own. On these days you cannot rely on your friend to help out if something would happen to you. This is when self rescues come in handy. There are different ways in which you can climb back into your kayak, either with or without a paddle float. You can even remove some water from the kayak, if you flip it around in a certain way. However, a bilge pump is normally needed to remove the water from the cockpit. Although self rescues may feel demanding at first, they become easier the more you practise them.

So far the assumption has been that the paddler in the capsized kayak has popped the spray skirt, done a wet exit and is in the water holding on to his/her kayak and paddle, when the rescue is performed. This leads to some extra hassle, since the kayak needs to be emptied before or after the paddler has re-entered the kayak. There is a final option for self rescues, which is the most efficient way to return the kayak to an upright position. Experienced kayakers may know how to roll themselves back to the surface after a capsize. Rolling a kayak is an advanced technique, but it can be learned by everyone with enough practice. When rolling a kayak, the spray skirt is left in place and therefore only minimal amounts of water may enter the cockpit and therefore the paddler can continue paddling as soon as he/ she has rolled the kayak back into an upright position.

If you want to learn more about sea kayak rescues, we offer a “Pelastautumisharjoitus” (rescue practice) on several Wednesdays during the kayaking season. To participate in the practice, you need to have done a beginners course or otherwise have the equivalent skills. The practice covers assisted rescues and self rescues after exiting the kayak. Rolling techniques are not part of this course.

Paddling regards,
Emilia

Kayaking for the first time

Here at Natura Viva paddling is our thing. We meet many first-time kayakers during each season. This text aims to help you get started with kayaking.

First you would probably like to find out why kayaking is such a great hobby 🙂 For a longer explanation why kayaking in Helsinki is so great for kayaking, you can read Ilkka’s text The Helsinki archipelago – a great kayaking destination! . The shorter version is that we all need exercise and for anyone who enjoys nature, kayaking is a fantastic way to experience the marine nature. When you go out kayaking you focus on what you are doing and you enjoy the beautiful surroundings, which does not leave space to worry about the groceries you need to buy, the meetings that are waiting for you at work tomorrow, etc.

First time kayak tour

Kayaking for the first time is fun!

Now, onto how you can get started. There are several different ways in which to start. For some people it is important to have a more experienced person around when trying a new sport, whereas others want to try out new things on their own. Whichever is your preferences we can help you get started with kayaking at the Vuosaari Paddling Center.

For those who enjoy the added safety of having a more experienced person around, we offer two different options. You can either join a guided tour or you can book a course for beginners.

Melontaa Vuosaaressa

There are a couple of tour options suitable for beginners. The first option is Helsinki by Kayak. It is a daily, 3h guided kayak tour suitable for beginners as well as experts.  This tour includes a sandwich break on an island and we provide the transportation between Helsinki city center and our paddling center in Eastern Helsinki. The other tour option is Let’s Paddle – An introduction to paddling!, which is a 2h guided kayak tour. On this tour your guides explain the basic skills needed on this kayaking tour and they take care of your safety during the 2h paddling tour. Let’s Paddle is not the equivalent of a kayaking course.  The Sea kayak beginners course is a total of 10h (spread over three evenings) and it aims at teaching participants the necessary skills for safe and independent kayaking. All these options allow you to try kayaking in the presence of a professional guide or instructor.

Then let’s move on and talk about the options for those that like to try out new things on their own. The Vuosaari Paddling Center has many different kayaks, which are suitable for kayakers of various skill levels. For beginners we recommend the Rainbow Oasis if you want to paddle in a single kayak and the Rainbow Oasis Twin if you want to try a double kayak. When deciding which day to try paddling, you should choose a day that is NOT windy. Rain does not matter, since with waterproof clothing kayaking is fun even on rainy days. A 2h rent is often enough for beginners, but if you plan to stop on an island for a picnic you will most likely need more time. For safety reasons we do not rent kayaks to big groups, for groups we offer guided tours.

Melonta Helsinki

Paddling regards,

Emilia

Winter activities in Helsinki

In the recent years, winters in Helsinki have been very diverse. There are short periods of time, when the conditions are good for one activity, but this changes so quickly. So finding an activity that could be offered through the whole season has been a real challenge. If there is a lot of snow, snowshoeing is a great activity. But the last couple of winters there has been only little snow. Other activities such as skating and skiing are also very much subject to the weather conditions. There have been several days when we have had perfect conditions for skating on the sea ice. But again, it is impossible to predict the ice conditions in advance. You never know if it is cold enough. And if it does get cold, you hope it doesn’t start snowing right away. Luckily, fatbiking is something that works well in all conditions! We have just started to offer our Fatbike tours and it is a great activity.

Fatbiking is a great activity for the whole year in Helsinki

Riding a fatbike is just like riding a normal bike, but even easier. The big and fat tires make it easy on all terrain. You can ride on snow, ice, forest path and dirt roads. So even when the conditions are changing, riding a fatbike is still enjoyable. For about a week the weather was colder here and the sea was frozen. So you could easily ride the fatbikes on the ice. Now when it has been warmer again, we have had to move back on dry land, but it is just as good!

Riding your fatbike on different terrain

Our bikes are really easy-to-use single-speed bikes with both foot and hand brakes. They are not real mountain bikes for challenging conditions, but work really well on the relatively flat terrain in Eastern Helsinki. Adjusting the air pressure in the tires makes the bikes easy and safe to ride even in slippery conditions. The less air you have in the tires, the better the friction is. So if it feels slippery you just need to let a bit of air out. On uneven terrain the bikes roll easily over smaller obstacles. So even if they are not actual mountain bikes, you can ride on easy single track and trail.

Why try a winter activity in Helsinki?

Sometimes when it is cold out and the weather is not perfect you are just tempted to stay inside in the warm and maybe read a book. Or just visit museums, art galleries and all the other great things Helsinki has to offer. Even if the weather is not the best, it is always great to go out. Just dress properly for the weather and you will certainly have a great time. After doing something active outside you can always get back in, but you are one experience richer. So get out and try one of our tours in the winter!

Fatbiking Regards,

Ilkka

The Helsinki archipelago – a great kayaking destination!

The city of Helsinki is full of nature! There are parks and forests everywhere. And there are hundreds of islands on the coast of Helsinki on the Gulf of Finland. A lot of the islands are recreational islands, where you can take a break or even camp overnight. This makes one of the best kayaking destinations in the world. The surroundings are great and it is really easy to reach!

There are numerous routes which you can adapt to suit your skills and the weather conditions. In general the conditions are good and easy. There is no significant tide on the Baltic Sea and all the islands give us good protection from the wind. Of course you still need to respect the nature, especially early or late in the season when the sea temperature is still low. But with good planning and a humble attitude kayaking is safe.

Kayaking is a great way to really experience the nature. You sit close to water and your speed is low, so you have plenty of time to observe your surroundings. On a beautiful summer day it is a wonderful feeling to stop in a safe place, close your eyes and put both of your hands in the water. Just make sure you don’t fall asleep doing it or you might end up wet!

Spending the night wild camping on one of the many islands is an unique experience. Sitting on the rocks and watching the sun set or waking up early in the morning for the sunrise is something you can’t get tired of. The days are long during the summer months, which is something very special. But the evenings and nights in the end of August or September are great too. You get out of the city and it is dark enough to see the stars!

If you are completely new to kayaking, I would recommend taking a guided tour or a course. But once you get started and learn the basic skills, it is easy go for longer trips. And to go on an overnight trip you don’t necessarily need to go too far. The closest recreational islands are less than a kilometre from our paddling center!

Best Paddling Regards,

Ilkka